Religion into the Mold of Doris Kilman in Mrs. Dalloway

Also Read

Introduction: Miss Kilman’s Detest for Mrs. Dalloway

      There is no denying the fact that all Virginia Woolf’s distaste for religion is poured into the mold of Doris Kilman. Miss Kilman is concerned with God and she presents the religion in this novel Mrs. Dalloway. Though she appears very late in the novel yet she is used as an instrument to reflect the novelist’s distaste for religion. Miss Kilman belongs to the group of soured spinsters of Virginia Woolf’s novels. For example Minnie Marsh, Miss Craddock and the unnamed “hospital nurse” in The Vogage out. Miss Kilman feels too sad to be unattractive. She is ugly and feels herself very much inferior in comparison to others. She is too poor and she has lost her job due to her sense of sincerity. (Because she could not frankly and honestly admit that all was right on the English part.). She has to work hard for a very little reward and she considers it despising because people like Mrs. Dalloway have never worked in their lives but are rich, prosperous and happy. Miss Kilman has only one source of delight and consolation—God.

      “Better and burning, Miss Kilman had turned into a church two years three months ago. She had heard the Rev. Edward Whittaker preach; the boys sing; had seen the solemn lights descend, and whether it was the music, or the voices (she herself when alone in the evening found comfort in a violin; but the sound was excruciating, she had no ear); the hot and turbulent feelings which boiled and surged in her had been assuaged as she sat there, and she wept copiously, and had gone to call on Mr. Whittaker at his private house in Kensington. It was the hand of God, she said. The Lord has shown her the way. So now, whenever the hot and painful feelings boiled within her, this hatred of Mrs. Dalloway, this grudge against the world, she thought of God. She thought of Mr. Whittaker Rage was succeeded by calm. A sweet savor filled her veins, her lips parted, and standing formidable upon the landing in her mackintosh, she looked with steady and sinister serenity at Mrs. Dalloway, who came out with her daughter.”

Mrs. Woolf’s Criticism of all-too-common Religious Type

      Miss Kilman wants to possess the soul of Elizabeth Dalloway and make her see behind the mask of Mrs. Dalloway. She wishes to overpower Mrs. Dalloway and make her shed tears, to humiliate her and make Mrs. Dalloway confess that she (Miss Kilman) is right. But this was God’s will not Miss Kilman’s. It was to be a religious victory. So she glared; so she glowered.” “In Miss Kilman, Virginia Woolf is making her criticism of an all-too-common religious type; to which, she believes, not only frustrated women like Doris Kilman belong but also a good number of clergymen.”

      Miss Kilman wants to wield power under the guise of religion. She loves power which is mixed with her foolishness. Such sort of woman never wins the battle of the world, never dominates in the fields of business, law, politics etc. But in a church, such men or women can Mill their ambitions. They enjoy a spiritual position there. They get pulpit, an unsurpassable platform to satisfy their egos, a flock of women especially whom they rule without any protest. They are insignificant in themselves and are dangerous as a body with a high command over the lives of the community.

The Significant Role of Doris Kilman

      In the house of Mrs. Dalloway, Doris Kilman is appointed as a tutoress to teach history to Elizabeth Dalloway, the seventeen years old daughter of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway. This is a golden opportunity, as thinks Miss Kilman, to possess Elizabeth’s soul and bring it to serve God. She tried her best to make Elizabeth detest her mother. Elizabeth is a girl of impressionable beauty and charm. She has been made to. know the facts of her mother. She hates parties but Mrs. Dalloway likes them a lot. Elizabeth thinks young men stupid. Miss Kilman also in favor of Elizabeth always inspires her indirectly to hate her mother. She wants to catch hold of Elizabeth’s soul and keep her in a confinement constructed by her (Miss Kilman).

Mrs. Dalloway’s Hatred for Doris Kilman

      Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway understands very well the evil designs of Kilman but she does not want to separate Elizabeth from her forcibly because Miss Kilman has tremendous influence over Elizabeth. She finally agrees to let her daughter Elizabeth go with Doris Kilman to the stores for shopping: “Love and religion: thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing room tingling all over. How detestable, how detestable they are. For now, the body of Miss Kilman was not before her, it overwhelmed her—the idea. The cruelest things in the world she thought, seeing them clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, eaves-dropping, jealous, infinitely cruel and unscrupulous, dressed in a mackintosh coat, on the landing; ‘ love and religion. Had she ever tried to convert anyone herself? Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves?

“The supreme mystery, Clarissa thinks, is human isolation, here, was one room, there another. Did religion solve that or love? And the supreme virtue, the supreme social virtue, is tolerance; to let people go there own way, be themselves, do what they like, so long as they are not hurting other people.”

Mrs. Woolf’s Views Upon Love and Religion

      Freedom of soul is of great importance. One should not try to impose oneself on others. They should not try to mold others according to themselves, but religion and people make people intolerant. They are a danger to human freedom because they arouse temptation for power and possession. Mr. Blake also had shown the similar idea in his poems.

Miss Kilman’s Thirst for Power

      Miss Kilman is thirsty of power and possession. This is the reason why she takes tea with Elizabeth in the Army and Navy stores. She eats ravenously and this often irritates Elizabeth because she does not know that “eating was almost the only pure pleasure left with her.” Miss Kilman also indulges in self-pity: “people don’t ask me to parties...I am plain, I’m unhappy.” She knows that Elizabeth does not like parties and it is very idiotic to go on like this with Elizabeth.


      Thus we see Doris Kilman is throughout criticized but we feel not only distaste of Mrs. Woolf for religion but her pity is also shown to her (Doris Kilman).

University Questions

Discuss the following statement, ‘‘All Virginia Woolf’s distaste for religion is poured into the mold of Doris Kilman.”

Previous Post Next Post